Audeze talks to producer and musician Nahuel Bronzini
Januar 14, 2023
Audeze talks to producer and musician Nahuel Bronzini
Nahuel Bronzini spends most of his days working in music. He also loves to cook, but that’s a different story. Nahuel goes from producing records for artists and bands, playing different instruments and creating layers for a variety of styles, to writing arrangements for strings or winds, to mixing records that he produces or that he gets called to mix specifically.
Nahuel says "There are no two days that look alike, and I am truly grateful to get to make music everyday."
"...when I found the Audeze headphones I finally was able to forget that I was listening to headphones… I can get totally immersed in the experience and feel like I am listening to something in a room." - Nahuel Bronzini
Here's our chat with Nahuel:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?
Sure! For multiple reasons: challenge, musical/sonic outcome and professional growth, I have to mention both Fantastic Negrito albums that I had the honor of working on. The first one is 2018's “Please Don’t Be Dead”, which I engineered and also mixed two songs on. The Duffler being the most special for me, both because I really like how it turned out and also because it got covered on the Sound on Sound, Mix Review column by Mike Senior, and that was a first for me!
The other album is 2020's “Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?", which I mixed entirely and because of that I was able to really put a personal sonic touch on it. I am really happy about how that one turned out, and it was also a big challenge which I was happy to take on.
Both of the Fantastic Negrito albums got Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
The Gibson & Bronzini “Horror Films and Sunday School” is a very special album for me because I got to participate in many ways and get really inside the music. I did all the string arrangements, produced it and also mixed it. And, perhaps most importantly, that album solidified my artistic partnership with the super talented songwriter/bassist Aaron Gibson.
Finally, I’ll mention the first single I put out as a solo artist “The Problem With Love.” It’s a song I co-wrote with a good friend of mine, Mike Suarez, and then I produced and played all the instruments/vocals except for the drums, by McKay Garner. There is a cool article on the Arturia website where I talk about some of the production elements and share some mixing tips from that song as well.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
I think the word that best describes what I do is “producer”, and perhaps in the broader sense of the word. Sometimes I am called in to work as a “mixer” delicately but, in the vast majority of projects I am taking a music role at the core. I go from musician / arranger to engineer in a rather fluid way. Oftentimes in projects, I am thinking of the final sonic scope of the mixes while adding new production layers or thinking of how to record a certain instrument. It’s all really interconnected to me.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
My first encounters with music were at home. Growing up, my dad was teaching music lessons at my house, piano, later on opera singing, and my mom was always playing and singing with me lots of rock and pop music from both Argentina and the US. I remember the cassette and CD collection at home, which I played over and over, which included: Queen greatest hits I & II, Lenny Kravitz “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Aerosmith, U2 “The Joshua Tree” and then Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet was my classical work I would always come back to as a teenager. The story really started with me finding my mom’s old guitar at age 12 or so and starting to figure out the first chords and songs from Sui Generis (an Argentinean folk duo band from the 70’s).
Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
There was a fundamental moment when I decided to quit the audio engineering school I was attending after high school to pursue a degree in Jazz… I felt like if I left music to be a side thing for me I would be forever unhappy… Somehow audio engineering and production came back around (they just never left truly) and became a cornerstone of my career, but at my own pace, by lots of self taught learning and experiencing things first hand from other people that were more far along in the path and were generous with me with their time and knowledge.
I think going to classical music school at the SF Conservatory after studying jazz was also a really big influence. What I always remember dearly is seeing/hearing my friends play chamber music and orchestral pieces. I was a classical guitar student there, so I didn't take so much of the traditional chamber settings (string quartets, etc), but experiencing that from up close was life changing for me.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
I think there is something really important that has to do with expectations and habits people have. Sometimes we come to a situation with a very formed or predetermined idea of how things will play out, how we know how to do things the right way, and we can forget that we all have our own set of experiences and formed knowledge and beliefs about things. When collaborating it is key to be able to step back and do a self check about how our ego is taking over, or not, when tension arises. It is ok to let go of our original plan, to open the conversation, to do things in a different way. I say this as if I had already learned the lesson… sometimes I feel more ready to let go than others, but that’s part of life, it’s an everyday battle and work we have to do to overcome this. I don’t think I have necessarily gained true awareness of this, but I think I am more comfortable these days with saying “hey, sorry I was too pushy, let’s try this again, let’s take a step back.”
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
Lately I’ve been really into playing different textures on my 1950’s Wurlitzer. The thing is alive… slightly out of tune in parts, but the energy it radiates is incredible. And, perhaps, the fact that I am not a formally trained piano player makes it even more special for me… when I go to those keys, I have to get creative in a different way than when I pick up the guitar. As far as audio tools go, after a few years of dialing it in with different projects, my master bus analog chain has become a really intuitive way of finding the balance and sweet spot of things. I come out of the converters into 32 channels of summing with a Burl Vancouver 32, then go into a Nightpro EQ 3D (predecessor of the Maag), then slightly hit a Superstereo SSL style compressor and ultimately a clone of the Neve 33609 metal knob by Stam Audio.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Work on music that you love. And give it your all. Make the best art you can make at the moment with that music. That’s your biggest investment in this field, your portfolio. If there is not such a project around, then create one, gather the right people to make it happen. Those projects will stay there forever and will attract the attention of others that dig the same type of music. It’s your best business card.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I think I started using headphones in any music/audio related setting when I was a teenager. First to listen to music, then when I started producing my own things and later on professionally. I’ve gone through lots of different models and styles and, of course, depending on the application, different types work better than others (isolation/open/tracking/monitoring/etc). I think the most amazing thing headphones do is that they are able to remove the room you are in from the equation completely. I love listening to music on speakers, but sometimes that accuracy of reference that headphones can provide in a setting where the room is less than ideal is quite awesome. I think it’s important to desmitify rooms a bit… I’ve been in some incredible rooms, and there are very few rooms where I can say I am confidently listening to things accurately. No matter the studio size/level, room acoustics are tricky, (and I don’t even intend to try to fully understand them), but one thing is clear: when using headphones the room is not a problem anymore. I know my personal mixing/production room pretty well, and I can confidently ship mixes that I did entirely on my Meyer HD1 monitors, but having the chance of checking them on my Audeze MX4 certainly is a big plus.
Sometimes I mix for a while on speakers, then I go to the headphones and make some tweaks there, then go back and see how those are reflected on the speakers again, mostly how they feel. I think low end is something we all struggle with, how it feels, how it hits, and how it masks things like the beater of the kick and the way the bottom of a vocal presents on the mix. The list goes on. High level detail of noises and clicks and things of that sort, or harshness on upper mid range on vocals is also a plus to check on headphones. I am a bit obsessive with mouth noises on some mixes (used to be more, now I can let go more, haha), and that’s something that headphones also help identify quite well.
Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?
Every time I drive across the Bay Bridge that connects San Francisco with the East Bay I get to think, wow… Am I living in a movie? Like the ones I would watch growing up in Argentina, with people driving in cars across long bridges I had never seen. Sometimes those thoughts make it into song lyrics.
Life is a true journey and how awesome is it that we get a chance to reflect on life through music? And how incredible is it that we can create sonic experiences that come out of speakers and hit our ears and then unlock emotions? Music and sound are truly fascinating to me, so is life in the grand scheme of things.
I never thought I would have started a career in music/audio in a place so far from where I grew up and get to experience so many different styles of music from up close, from R&B to American Folk, classical and chamber music and other traditions from around the world. Yet life takes us on a rollercoaster and here we are.
I just want to thank all of the people that trust me on a day to day basis and have supported and encouraged me through the years to keep getting better at this and stay motivated.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
Before trying the Audeze headphones, I didn’t really like using headphones to mix or listen to music in general… I still am a big proponent of listening to music on speakers… I just love the way that things feel like they have real life size and dimension, but when I found the Audeze headphones I finally was able to forget that I was listening to headphones… I can get totally immersed in the experience and feel like I am listening to something in a room.
I’ve been working on a bunch of things!
Some of the most exciting stuff has been the Cigarbox Man album, which I am co-producing and also mixing. I also joined the group as a band member so that’s fun as well. Cigarbox Man is a psychedelic rock band led by Chilean songwriter and “cigar box” (lapsteel) player Felipe Ubeda, who is now living in California. We call the genre psychedelic rock, but it takes its sonic influences from many places and the sounds are rich and organic, mixing classic 70’s live band aesthetics with more modern synth sounds and experimental textures from the lap steel and rhodes going into a Leslie and projected to a live room. I am really happy with how this turned out and given the thick and multilayered textures that are going on, checking back and forth between monitors and my Audeze has been a great tool to make sure things are well balanced and that we are not overlooking any details.
My solo album is also nearly complete and has been a wonderful sonic playground for me, and the first single to come out was "What If." I love so many things about making records and in this one I get to take things wherever I feel, without worrying about genres, or anything really. I just do whatever each song is calling for and allow myself to go down the creative path as I feel fitting. I am really excited to start releasing some of these songs very soon. I am playing most of the instruments and using a lot of my arsenal of instruments and sounds at my studio, including my dear 1950’s wurlitzer, analog synths, lots of different guitars (both electric and acoustic), and tons of vocal layering. It’s a great feeling when playing this back and thinking, okay…Yeah, this is music I enjoy listening to!